Dumont: Emotional intelligence and getting through the Covid-19 crisis

It can help keep us, and others, calm amid the panic

Clark Dumont

Stunning.

If we needed the ultimate definition of “going viral”, we’ve gotten it the last several weeks with the novel coronavirus.

Reported to the World Health Organization by China on Dec. 31, Covid-19 is a sober reminder for the need for speed in seeing, understanding and addressing a crisis. It has changed our lives while introducing new lexicons (social distance, self-quarantine,), and new ways to meet and greet (fist bump, elbow bump, foot bump, air Hi).

The human costs are significant and sobering. The global financial costs are as well, projected to be at least $1 trillion, with a global investment bank estimating zero annual economic growth in 2020 due to the virus.

On Jan. 27, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce facilitated the first of regular telebriefings for business. Led by the Centers for Disease Control’s Dr. Nancy Messonier, the briefings were transparent, timely and relevant. The rounds of subsequent updates saw the roster of countries with diagnoses grow dramatically from the initial dozen to the global pandemic status declared by WHO on March 11, only 71 days from the report by China.

The Institute of Alvin Toffler, the late futurist and author of “MegaTrends,” observes that Covid-19 has collectively brought us to a new normal. Why? Because the incident is being witnessed by all of us. It is ubiquitous, going beyond country borders. We are experiencing and sharing it as we have other significant events in history.

Its duration, severity and its longstanding impact will be seen in how it is already changing behaviors, including social distancing, self-quarantines, deep cleaning and avoiding closed spaces.

The incident and its impacts are beyond what are normal and expected. Domestically, it’s been stunning. Season suspensions for pro sports, the cancellation of the NCAA’s March Madness, the U.S. Capitol closed to the public, the NH Legislature suspended its session for at least a week, sanitation protocols at town meetings, school and university campus closings with the pivot to virtual learning, theme parks closing, the darkening of Broadway, parades, mega events, major industry conferences and conventions canceled. Wall Street going from a bull to a bear market in days and oil prices free-falling. All of this – an more, including along with the hoarding of hand sanitizer, toilet paper and water – is beyond normal.

Covid-19 has unequivocally taken us into uncharted waters.

It is a reminder that it’s “not if but when” an adverse event of unimaginable proportion will strike. It’s another reminder to think ahead, to have contingencies that ensure resilience.

During the unending news cycle, I received an e-newsletter from Korn Ferry, the organizational consulting firm. For leaders, it contained important reminders about the benefits in a crisis of Daniel Goleman’s four pillars of emotional intelligence that can keep us, and those around us, calm versus panic:

Self-awareness

Goleman notes that self-awareness is when we are conscious of our feelings and our thoughts about our feelings. Being aware of your personal feelings puts you in charge, not your emotions.

Self-control

Goleman observes that the amygdala portion of our brain, the “fight-or-flight” area, can quickly overwhelm and take control of the prefrontal cortex, the rational part of the brain that facilitates rational thinking. Goleman calls the amygdala the “bad boss,” while the prefrontal cortex is the “good boss.” “In a crisis, we want the good boss to show up to control the bad boss.”

Social awareness

Social awareness empowers empathy. It’s how we see situations through the lenses of others. In a crisis, engaging with others helps assure we don’t have blinders. To quote an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go farther, go together.”

Relationship management

Goleman calls relationship management “friendliness with a purpose, the ability, through inspiring others, managing conflicts, fostering teamwork, and other competencies, to moving people in the direction you desire.” Each of these competencies requires self-awareness, self-control and social awareness.

We may not be able to undo a crisis of the moment, but emotional intelligence helps to make the process of getting through the next crisis smoother, because it’s “not if, but when.”

We have not seen what we are experiencing in our lifetime. In the face of this crisis be calm. While acting, be open to the opportunities it presents for improvement and resiliency in the new normal.

A New Hampshire resident and native, Clark Dumont is a Fortune 500 communications leader and principal and founder of Dumont Communications LLC. He can be reached at dumontcommunications.com.

Categories: Workplace Advice

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